Middle Ages Notes Combined


Germanic Kingdoms Unite Under Charlemagne

Decline of the Roman Empire brings the Middle Ages New institutions emerge to take its place

Invasions Trigger Changes in Western Europe:

 Invasions and warfare change government, the economy, and culture o Disruption of trade  Trade routes no longer safe  Business collapses  Money is scarce o Downfall of Cities  Cities were abandoned as centers of administration o Populations Shifts  Nobles moved to rural areas  People leave cities, population becomes rural  Decline of Learning o o Invaders were illiterate Learning sank sharply as people moved to rural areas  Loss of a Common Language o Latin changes / dialects develop as Germanics mix with Romans o Romance languages evolve

Germanic Kingdoms Emerge

 Concept of Government Changes o Loyalty to public gov’t and written law disappears o Germanic people used unwritten rules and traditions o o Germanics loyal only to people they know and respect Stress on personal ties made orderly gov’t impossible over large areas

Germanic Peoples Adopt Christianity

Frankish rulers help convert people to Christianity Missionaries help spread the faith  Monasteries and Convents o Monasteries become Europe’s best-educated communities

Charlemagne Takes Center Stage

Charlemagne conquers lands, unites Europe for first time since Romans Spreads Christianity everywhere he goes Crowned “Roman Emperor” for helping pope   Charlemagne encouraged learning After Charlemagne’s death, the Treaty of Verdun divides his empire into three kingdoms

Key Concepts:

Government, economy, culture change as Germanic people mix with Romans      Trade unsafe, shift to farming occurs as people move out of cities Learning decreases Organized public gov’t vanishes – stress is now on personal loyalty Christianity grows among Germanic People Church expands into secular issues

Feudalism in Europe

Invasions and political turmoil lead to the rise of feudalism


– a political, social, economic and military system based on land ownership and loyalty

New Invasions Trouble Western Europe:

 Vikings, Magyars, Muslims raided Europe, causing disorder  Threat of danger was real and constant   People turned to local rulers and armies for safety Leaders who could provide this gained political strength and power

Feudalism Structures Society

 A New Social Order o Rulers and warriors make agreements- basis for new system o Feudal system was based on  

mutual obligations

Lord gives fief (land grant) to vassal Vassal pledges to fight for lord  The Feudal Pyramid o King  Nobles and Bishops (vassals)  Knights (vassals) o Peasants  Social Classes are Well Defined o Status determines prestige and power o o Vast majority of people were  


(peasants) Bound to the land – could not leave it without permission Although slave-like, serfs could NOT be bought or sold Lord’s wealth came from peasant labor

Manors: The Economic Side of Feudalism

The manor was the lord’s estate – becomes economic system Rights and obligations between lord and serf governed manor system  A Self-Contained World o The manor was a


community o All goods needed were produced on the manor o Few outside purchases – most people never left manor  The Harshness of Manor Life o Peasants worked very hard o Paid many taxes, including


to church (10% of income) o Needed permission of lord to marry o Housing was poor and diet was simple


Feudalism was the system of loyalties and protections during the Middle Ages. As the Roman Empire crumbled, emperors granted land to nobles in exchange for their loyalty. These lands eventually developed into manors. A manor is the land owned by a noble and everything on it. A typical manor consisted of a castle, small village, and farmland. During the Middle Ages, peasants could no longer count on the Roman army to protect them. German, Viking and Magyar tribes overran homes and farms throughout Europe. The peasants turned to the landowners, often called lords, to protect them. Many peasants remained free, but most became serfs. A serf was bound to the land. He could not leave without buying his freedom, an unlikely occurrence in the Middle Ages. Life for a serf was not much better than the life of a slave. The only difference was that a serf could not be sold to another manor. Serfs would often have to work three or four days a week for the lord as rent. They would spend the rest of their week growing crops to feed their families. Other serfs worked as sharecroppers. A sharecropper would be required to turn over most of what he grew in order to be able to live on the land.

The Age of Chivalry

Through warfare, lords defended their estates and increased their wealth A code of behavior arose and high ideals guided warrior’s behaviors

Warriors on Horseback:

o Saddles and Stirrups  Saddles kept knights firmly seated on a moving horse  Stirrups allowed knights to stand and use heavy weapons  Both changed the technology of warfare o Warrior’s role in Feudal Society  Knights were awarded land (fief) in return for service in battle  Wealth from their fief allowed them time to train for war

Knighthood and Chivalry:

Code of chivalry – complex set of ideals followed by knights o Must fight bravely for 3 masters  His earthy lord, his heavenly Lord, his chosen lady  War Games for Glory o o Knights began training at an early age (7). Participated in tournaments to gain combat training  Brutal Reality of Warfare o o o Real war was far more bloody than tournaments Boiling water, oil, and molten lead were poured on people. Archers fired armor piercing arrows from crossbows

The Shifting Role of Women:

 Most women were poor and powerless during the Middle Ages o Some noblewomen had limited power o Lord passed down fief to their sons, not daughters

The Church Wields Power

With no strong central governments in feudal Europe, the Church emerges as a powerful institution. Power struggles unfold as rulers question the pope’s political authority.

The Scope of Church Authority:

Ideally, the pope should bow to the emperor in political matters, and the emperor to the pope in religious matters In reality, both sides disagreed on the boundaries of authority: clashes ensued. 

Church Structure

Had its own hierarchy  Pope – headed the Church in Rome  Bishops – supervised priests  Priests – served as the local contact with the Church 

Religion as a Unifying Force

While feudalism created divisions among people (social status), the Church united them through shared beliefs.     Provided a sense of security Provided a community in which all belonged Sacraments provided a path to salvation Local church was the religious and social center of the village

Church Justice

Church had religious and political authority.  Canon law – law of the Church - guided marriage and religious matters  Used for political purposes (usually against kings) o Excommunication – kicked out of the Church  Denies salvation  Frees all vassals from duties to the king o Interdict – sacraments could not be performed in any of  the king’s lands Denies salvation to all of the king’s subjects These threats were used to make kings submit to the pope.

Cathedrals- Cities of God

 The Church’s wealth could be seen in their cathedrals

A New Style of Church Architecture

 Gothic style cathedrals are built o Towers, pointed arches, tall spires thrust upward o Stained glass windows o Tall, vaulted ceilings  The cathedral represented the City of God and was decorated accordingly

The Crusades

 The Byzantine emperor sent a letter asking for help against the  Turks. Pope Urban II sees the letter and launches the Crusades.

Causes of the Crusading Spirit

 Economic causes o o o o Younger sons looking for land and position in society Merchants made loans to finance Crusades Merchants leased ships at high rates to transport Crusaders Merchants wanted to win control of trade routes  Religious Causes o Muslims hold Palestine and threaten Constantinople o Pope’s appeal created an outpouring of religious feeling o Pope said those who died in the Crusade would go to heaven

The First and Second Crusades

 Crusaders were not prepared for battle – lacked knowledge, a plan and leadership   Crusaders capture Jerusalem only to lose it 45 years later The Second Crusade fails to recover Jerusalem

The Third and Fourth Crusades

 Richard the Lionhearted fights Saladin – ends in truce o Muslims keep control; Christians can visit holy sites freely  Fourth Crusade gets entangled in politics o Constantinople gets looted  Christian Church in east and west splits

The Crusading Spirit Dwindles The Later Crusades

 Crusades are now a search for personal gain  Very little land in N. Africa captured – Louis IX wins respect

A Spanish Crusade

 Reconquista – effort to drive the Muslims out of Spain  Inquisition – tribunal held by the Church to suppress heresy o effort to unify country under Christianity, consolidate o o power suspects questioned for weeks and tortured those who confessed were often burned at the stake

Effects of the Crusades

 Crusades weakened feudal nobility o Thousands of knights lost their lives and fortunes     Pope’s power declines, kings become stronger Religious intolerance grows Trade grows between Europe and the Middle East European technology improves as they learn from Muslims

Trade, Towns, and Financial Revolution

A Growing Food Supply

 Warmer climate, new methods increase food supply

Using Horsepower

 New harness technology allows horses to work  Switch from oxen to horse doubled work output  More time to clear more land – more acres to farm

Three Field System

 Enabled two-thirds of land to be planted, rather than half o Increased food production o Healthier food grown – healthier people o Population increases

Trade and Finance Expand

 Growing population spurs more trade and needs for cash

Fairs and Trade

 Local fairs took place in towns  No longer was everything produced on the manor

The Guilds

 Controlled crafts and trades  Set quality and price standards  Only masters could be members – apprentice 5-9 yrs

A Financial Revolution

 Merchants needed money for goods  Jews loaned money since Christians couldn’t charge interest  Finance was one of the few occupations open to Jews

Urban Splendor Reborn

 Towns became a force for change.

Trade and Towns Grow Together

 Trade spurs growth of towns   Serfs ran away to live in towns – population grows Towns not well organized, but offered opportunities

Towns and the Social Order

 Merchants / craftsmen didn’t fit feudalism’s social hierarchy  Burghers challenged lords and demanded privileges and rights

The Revival of Learning

Scholars and Writers

 Towns created a new interest in learning – universities develop  Poets begin using the vernacular o Dante –

The Divine Comedy


Chaucer – The Canterbury Tales

 Since few could read Latin, this brought literature to the masses

The Muslim Connection

 Contact with Muslims/Byzantines through the Crusades and trade sparks new interest in the ancient works  Europe acquires huge body of knowledge in science, math, law, etc  Muslim technology in navigation, ships and weapons id discovered

A Century of Turmoil

The Bubonic Plague

Origins and Symptoms

 Came from China aboard merchant ships  Rats had fleas that carried the disease – fleas jumped on people  Plague killed within four days

Effects of the Plague

 Manor system / feudalism fail as serfs move to find better wages o Since there were few workers, they were in demand  Church lost prestige when prayer fails to stop the disease  Prices rise, trade falls, farms are untended, people live for the day

The Hundred Years’ War

 Fight for the French throne (1337-1453)


 The longbow makes chivalric warfare obsolete – English victories  Joan of Arc rallies French to win war – is burned at the stake


 Nationalism develops in England and France  Kings were thought of as national leaders rather than feudal lords  Marks the end of the Middle Ages